Miami Beach City Manager Offers Preliminary Recovery Plan to Reopen Restaurants

Miami Beach is making plans to reopen.
Photo by George Martinez
Miami Beach is making plans to reopen.
Yesterday, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy L. Morales sent a memorandum to members of the city's Finance and Economic Resiliency Committee that outlines what he described as a "Resilient Recovery Plan" for the city, including restaurants.

Morales did not set a schedule, but he based his approach on the White House's recently released Opening Up America Again guidelines and noted that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates June 8 as the "earliest date that Florida can relax social distancing with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size." 

The plan addresses many aspects of daily life, including schools, childcare, transportation, government services, parks, places of worship, community centers, hotels, retail, beaches, entertainment, bars, and restaurants.

Restaurant reopenings would proceed in two phases, according to the memo and accompanying information.

Phase one would allow restaurants to open with outdoor seating only at first, and would request that restaurants consider special hours to accommodate vulnerable populations. In addition, restaurants would operate at 50 percent capacity or require a minimum of six feet of space between tables. Employees would be required to work staggered shifts and wear masks, and hours would be reduced and menus limited. Restaurants would be required to implement measures to prevent servers and bussers to cross-contaminate tables. Establishments with liquor licenses could offer table service, but bars would remain closed to patrons.

Under phase two, restaurants would be allowed to relax social-distancing measures and increase capacity.

Until further notice, restaurants would be asked to supply straws for all drinks, reduce outside seating by 20 to 30 percent, increase airflow from the outside, use phone-app technology to take orders and receive payment, and operate on a reservations-only basis in order to stay within capacity limits.

Bars would not be allowed to open until phase two, when they would be allowed to operate with reduced standing-room occupancy and staggered work shifts and masks for employees. Pool tables and other touch devices (jukeboxes, games, and vending machines) would be off-limits. Plexiglas partitions would be required (the plan doesn't specify where), as would increased airflow from outside and phone-app technology as with restaurants.

In a phone call with New Times, Red South Beach (formerly Red the Steakhouse) chef/owner Peter Vauthy said June might not be too soon to reintroduce outdoor activities in Miami Beach, but he questions if people would enjoy dining alfresco in the heat of a South Florida summer. "If anyone wants to sit outside in June, more power to them," the restaurateur says.

He believes early August is a more realistic timeframe for restaurants to reopen — especially establishments like his that aren't equipped with outdoor seating. "I'm working on revamping my menus," Vauthy says, noting that the annual Miami Spice promotion, scheduled to run through August and September, might "give people an incentive to get out."

The chef is already thinking about ways to ensure guest safety. "Am I going to put acrylic dividers between booths?" he muses. "Where can we seat people? "

In the interim, Vauthy is keeping busy feeding first responders and regular customers in order to keep the lights on.

"I'm hoping to see a rush of people once we're in a position to enjoy life again," he says. "Restaurants are the general stores of our time, and we're all social beings. We just have to go about reopening in a safe manner."